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Residents of Newbury and Bradford will decide whether to purchase 10-acre parcel for outdoor classroom

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 7/19/2021 9:47:30 PM
Modified: 7/19/2021 9:47:34 PM

NEWBURY, Vt. — Even prior to the coronavirus pandemic, Upper Valley elementary schools were implementing outdoor learning. Among them was Newbury Elementary School, which six years ago started to use a nearby parcel of land that came to be called the Forest School as an outdoor education space.

Next month, residents of Newbury and Bradford, the two towns of the Oxbow Unified Union School district, will decide whether to purchase the 10-acre parcel off Pulaski Street. The School Board set a special meeting vote for 6 p.m. on Aug. 17. An informational meeting is planned for Aug. 11, both in person and on Zoom.

The warning for the meeting asks voters to approve spending $68,000 for the parcel and to pay for it using money from the district’s surplus, which currently totals $281,000, Danielle Corti, chair of the Oxbow district’s board, said Monday.

The parcel is a five-minute walk from the school, down a one-way street. The school’s motto is “World peace through harmony with self, harmony with others, harmony with nature,” Corti noted.

“It’s really worked wonderfully to bring those harmonies back out to the Forest School,” she said.

It’s also an small patch of old growth forest, tall pines and mature hardwoods, she added.

Where other schools opened outdoor classrooms to weather the 2021-22 pandemic school year, Newbury Elementary wasn’t able to use its Forest School. For the past couple of years, it’s been up for sale, and therefore off-limits, Corti said. Students had left their mark on the property, too, temporary forts and the like, Corti said.

Then-Principal Chance Lindsley came to a handshake deal with the landowner, John Renfrew, to use the parcel for the Forest School. Students at every grade level made use of the parcel.

Advocates for forest classrooms tout the way in which spending time outdoors teaches children to be curious, resilient and persistent.

Time outdoors also can help students who struggle in a traditional row of desks.

If the purchase goes through, there will likely be some additional costs to make the property at once more secure and more accessible, such as installing a gate and removing trees that might pose a hazard.

Alex Hanson can be reached at or 603-727-3207.

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